Monday, April 15, 2024

Israel Hamas Don’t Want to Stop the War, Despite the World Pressure for Ceasefire

HomeWARIsrael Hamas Don't Want to Stop the War, Despite the World Pressure...

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The relentless thunder of war echoes through Gaza’s bomb-cratered streets. Entire city blocks lie pulverized by Israeli airstrikes. And in the rubble-strewn alleys, panicked crowds scramble as another barrage of rockets streaks skyward towards Israel.

After nearly six months of unremitting violence, the prospect of peace in this tormented Palestinian coastal enclave seems to drift further away by the day. A new round of ceasefire talks collapsed spectacularly this week, as both Israeli and Hamas leaders defiantly dug in their heels. With each side convinced they can still force a total victory, the death toll continues its inexorable climb.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have already perished since the war erupted last October, according to Gaza’s health ministry. A grim, almost incomprehensible statistic that speaks to the sheer, indiscriminate savagery being visited upon this densely-populated strip of land.

In Khan Younis, a father shakily hands me photos of his three young sons, their smiling faces frozen in time. “They were playing outside when the Israelis bombed us,” Khalil Abbas whispers hoarsely through his tears. “What was their crime? Being Palestinian?”

His wife Hanan looks on, her eyes hollow with grief yet still defiant. “Israel thinks it can make us surrender through random killing. But they are wrong,” she says softly. “Our people would rather die than live as slaves.”

It is a level of hardship and human anguish that feels almost medieval in the modern age, a Biblical tragedy befitting this ancient, contested land. And yet the horrors play out each day on social media feeds the world over.

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So far, diplomacy has proved utterly inadequate in stopping the carnage. The latest ceasefire proposal, brokered by officials from the U.S., Qatar and Egypt, was emphatically rejected by both sides on Monday.

For Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, any truce must include ironclad assurances that Israel will fully withdraw its forces and lift the long-running blockade strangling the territory. The militants also demand the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including senior commanders serving life sentences for orchestrating bloody attacks on Israeli civilians.

“Israel has not responded to our core demands,” a Hamas spokesman said with typical defiance after rebuffing the latest ceasefire plan. “There can be no deal until the siege of Gaza is completely ended.”

Amid the intransigence, it was a naked display of the profound mistrust guiding both camps – as well as the soaring ambitions of Hamas’ new generation of battle-hardened leaders. For them, merely ending the fighting is not enough. They crave a decisive, historic victory that will cement their status and change the regional balance of power once and for all.

On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck an equally uncompromising tone. His government angrily rejected a United Nations resolution calling for an unconditional ceasefire, convinced it would only allow Hamas to regroup and re-arm before launching another round of attacks.

“We have no moral right to stop the war while there are still hostages held in Gaza,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared, referring to around 100 Israeli civilians being forcibly detained by Hamas.

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Netanyahu has made clear he intends to keep pounding Hamas with airstrikes and artillery barrages until the group agrees to completely disarm and hand over the captive Israelis, as well as the remains of 30 others.

There can be “no replicating of the scenes of October, when militants flooded across our border and killed over 1,200 innocent Israelis,” the prime minister said at the weekend, his voice rising in anger. “The only path is the complete elimination of Hamas, once and for all.”

Such maximalist aims, coupled with the trauma of those first horrific weeks, help explain Israel’s adamant public stance. Yet it also dismisses the increasingly frantic diplomatic warnings that a further military escalation, including a possible ground invasion of the city of Rafah, risks triggering an even worse humanitarian catastrophe.

Those concerns appeared to have crystalized this week in Washington, where the Biden administration broke from its steadfast support for Israeli military action. In a sharp rebuke to its close ally, U.S. officials allowed a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire to pass by abstaining rather than using their veto.

The surprise move, which came after urgent appeals from aid groups working in Gaza, sparked outrage in Israel. Netanyahu reacted furiously, cancelling an upcoming visit to Washington by his defense chiefs in retaliation.

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For ordinary Palestinians trapped in the line of fire, however, such diplomatic brinkmanship is an increasingly empty gesture. Huddled in UN-run schools and makeshift tent camps, many curse both sides as they run desperately low on food, water and medicine.

“We’re like stray dogs, foraging in the ruins for scraps each day to survive,” Um Mohammed, a widowed mother of five, told me at one such camp on the outskirts of Gaza City. “Both sides say they are protecting us, but from what? We are being slaughtered like sacrificial lambs.”

Her emaciated son Yussef clung to her tattered robe, his inflamed skin blistering from lack of medical treatment and malnutrition. At his feet, I spotted a hand-drawn picture – a child’s crayon rendering of warplanes and exploding buildings sketched in chaotic reds and blacks.

“I used to dream of being a doctor, to help people. But now…” The 10-year-old’s voice trailed off, his eyes clouding with sadness far beyond his years.

Beyond the confines of the camp, the staccato crackle of gunfire periodically rattled in the distance, temporarily drowning out the low hum of Israeli drones circling overhead. With each explosion, Um Mohammed tightened her embrace around her skeletal offspring, her weathered face contorting in mute anguish.

In that heart-rending tableau lies the true cost of this bitter, endless conflict. As each passing day bleeds into the next, it seems the prospect of durable peace has never felt so desperately distant.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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